Onyx is a pretty amazing cat. He doesn’t do tricks or have any cute expressions but he has an amazing power in his scratch. When he scratched Aunt Mildred, she went to the ER for stitches and her blood work revealed that she was in the early stages of leukemia. When Mrs. Jones next door became ill and refused to see a doctor, she received a scratch from Onyx and, like Aunt Mildred, went to the ER. Once she was there, her blood test revealed a cancer in its early stages. Onyx’s family, the Hendersons, saw this as a strange coincidence. Renee and Bridgette, the two sisters, saw it as something more. As the Hendersons went about their lives, Onyx quietly did what cats do, waiting for an opportunity to help.
SCRATCH is a well written story that uses Onyx’ magical powers to discuss issues ranging from health to child abuse. It is difficult to have a pet as a central character without anthropomorphizing it but Mr. Janson handles this deftly. The plot runs smoothly from scene to scene without hard breaks in the action or becoming sidetracked. Again, this is handled deftly, a difficult feat while covering the range of topics found here. The scene with the suspected child abuse, while being dealt with openly and honestly, has some weaknesses. The general tone of language treads lightly on this theme. The miraculous conversion of George, the abuser, is difficult to accept. The initial confusion and then decisiveness of the Hendersons when they intervene seems accurate but the language is subdued and this affects the seriousness of the incident. This is more of a shortcoming of the genre of Young Adult fiction rather than on the part of the author. The important thing presented, and presented well, is that when faced with this kind of crime, all of the Hendersons, children and adults, acted to bring the victims to safety and notify the authorities, including the school.
SCRATCH is the story of a remarkable cat and his loving family. Whether coincidence or miraculous power, Onyx is usually found in the midst of the action, observing it with the supercilious mien that all cats seem to share.